As last week’s Panorama exposes another scandal involving premium rate phone and text competitions, is the public’s confidence in this medium at an all time low? The BBC alleges that “callers to premium-rate phone competitions on the GMTV breakfast show have been defrauded out of millions of pounds… Since 2003, callers had wasted a total of £45,000 a day - or £10m a year - entering the competitions.”

Robert Thurner, Commercial Director at mobile marketing agency Incentivated, believes that this example is very much the exception and not the rule when it comes to text messaging services. Most such services are not premium rate but either free or the cost of just a standard rate text message. They are run for marketing or customer service reasons not to generate revenue. Text messages are the most direct form of non-verbal communication, as well as being the most likely to be opened – 95% of texts are opened compared with 25% of emails (source:IAB). When used appropriately, text messaging can perform important tasks that no other communication medium can.

Whilst early stage industries such as mobile services often attract companies seeking to make quick profits, long term players take a responsible attitude to growing the sector through self regulation and the development of best practice guidelines. Codes of conduct developed by the Direct Marketing Association, Institute of Sales Promotion and Mobile Marketing Association as well as the existing rulebook developed by the Advertising Standards Authority are very clear in such cases and together with the premium rate regulator ICSTIS have teeth.

Text message campaigns can offer a vital service. Incentivated’s campaign for the Mayor of London allowed the general public to receive contact details by text for the closest licensed minicab firms in an effort to reduce sexual assaults by illegal minicab drivers. British Airways delivers time sensitive travel alerts to passengers and cabin crew, again through Incentivated, allowing travellers to learn about disruptions and act upon them instead of finding out at the airport when it’s too late.

Robert Thurner, Commercial Director at Incentivated, explains: ”Text messaging has become a major part of everyday life, with an average of 138 million being sent each day. This is the latest in a series of allegations concerning the use of premium-rate phone lines by TV stations. They are no doubt causing the public to become suspicious of text messaging services as well as promotions and competitions and could undermine all the positive work currently happening in the industry which should not be ignored. Legislation is in place to protect the consumer and text campaigns that allow the public to make charitable donations, find safe taxis and even land a new job prove the many benefits of mobile and text services. Offering the mobile as a medium for consumers to interact with brands and good causes that insight an immediate desire to respond and be involved is bringing traditional media to life.”

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About Incentivated:
Incentivated works with global brands to help them communicate with customers instantly and easily via their mobile phones. We develop and manage mobile marketing campaigns and services on local, national and international levels. We reach people in all corners of the world and in many languages, using text messaging and the mobile internet. We believe the mobile phone is an intensely private medium. Respecting this principle, our campaigns provide information that consumers find useful and welcome.

Incentivated is the provider of mobile services for the Mayor of London and is the only pure play mobile agency on the COI (government) digital roster. Jonathan Bass, MD of Incentivated sits on the DMA’s mobile marketing council and has assisted in framing legislation which protects consumer privacy. Jonathan and Robert Thurner are active members of the Mobile Marketing Association, which is fast emerging as the industry body developing and sharing mobile best practice.

Founded in 2001, Incentivated's fast growing client base includes British Airways, Ford PAG, Hilton Group, Visit Scotland, PwC, OneTel, Scottish Power and Macmillan Cancer Support.

For further information please contact:
Elena Dunn, Skywrite Communications
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7608 4646
Incentivated – 0845 130 3985

Published on: 12:00AM on 30th April 2007